Friday, July 27, 2012

The Color of Money. B+

Even though it has Martin Scorsese behind the camera and it's a better film because of it, the bottom line is that The Color of Money is Paul Newman's movie. The movie came out right about the time when Newman was starting to be considered an old timer. Gone were his youthful looks and intense, vigorous performances. In the movie Newman inhabits more of a laid back personality, one that suggests an roughhouse youth laid to rest for a peaceful conclusion to life. Thus, it's fitting that Newman is playing Eddie Felson, the same character that really made him a star in The Hustler (1961). This film isn't so much a sequel as it is a visit back to the life of Felson to see what he's up to in his advancing years. He's quit playing pool, but when he sees an exiting new hustler in town, played by Tom Cruise, he can't resist returning to the scene of his fame to coach the kid. Felson doesn't seem so much interested in making him a better player, but rather taming his youthful exuberance so he doesn't end up making the same mistakes he made in The Hustler. Cruise gives an entertaining performance, especially when he shows off his dance moves while killing opponents, and his girlfriend, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, is a key part of the film's success. Adding to that, Scorsese shoots with his trademark flair, seen mostly during the pool hall scenes. Yet despite the many good distractions, I found myself always turning back to Newman. His character is predictable at times, but it's the professional way in which he plays Felson, as well as the history of the character and Newman's career in general, that makes him the face and main sell of this movie.

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